“Nestlé is attempting to create a nigella sativa [fennelflower] monopoly and gain the ability to sue anyone using it without Nestlé’s permission,” the ‘SumofUs’ petition reads.
The Swiss food giant said the monopoly accusations were unfounded.
“Nestlé is not trying to patent Nigella sativa,” the company said. “We applied for a patent to protect the use of molecules, which act on opioid receptors for treating or preventing food allergy.”
“This patent, which has not yet been approved, would not prevent the use of Nigella sativa for any other purposes, including traditional uses and natural remedies.”
The petition states that Nigella sativa could be used for, “nutritional interventions in humans with food allergy.”
“But instead of creating an artificial substitute, or fighting to make sure the remedy was widely available, Nestlé is attempting to create a nigella sativa monopoly and gain the ability to sue anyone using it without Nestlé’s permission.”
“Don’t let Nestlé turn a traditional cure into a corporate cash cow.”
“If we act fast, we can put enough pressure on Nestlé to get it to drop its patent plans before they harm anyone - but if we want any chance at affecting Nestlé's decision, we have to speak out now!”
Nestlé said its patent applications stem from earlier research around allergies that had isolated a fennel molecule, thymoquinone.
It reiterated that if the patent was approved it realted only to that molecule and not the rest of the flower and plant.
The issue sparked massive debate online with. One online forum commentator, Peter Tar, related that a plant could not be patented in its natural state but, "...a natural substance that has never before been isolated or known may be patentable in some instances, but only in its isolated form," could be.
"A variation of a naturally occurring substance may be patentable if an inventor is able to demonstrate substantial non-obvious modifications that offer significant advantages in using the variant."